Tag Archives: Song Birds

Starvelings in the Storm

You have probably heard about the aftermath of Hurricane Bertha bearing down on the UK, it must have made the world news, no?

Well it rained a bit in the night.

I just wanted to let you know that we survived.

This is how bad it got…. The Birds nearly starved.

They are demanding little animals.

Now the sun is breaking through and I am going out to photograph some flowers in the rain.

House Sparrows, (Weathering the storm)

Just a short post. I have been watching the House Sparrows today. The bad weather doesn’t seem to bother them. They have (what would seem to be) several distinct advantages over the Blue Tits when it comes to survival.

House SparrowThe Blue Tit just has one brood a year, very rarely two and they have it now. The House Sparrow has a much smaller brood (Between two and five) so less mouths to feed and the House Sparrow will have two or three broods a year, sometimes even four. So they are not at the mercy of May.

Now that seems a much more sensible way to go about raising a family and it makes me wonder if Blue Tits are the origin of that phrase, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

House SparrowThe House Sparrow has another big advantage over the Blue Tit, they are supposed to feed their young on insects but they can feed them seed if the weather is bad.

I don’t think the chicks here are getting any option, it is porridge, porridge and more porridge.

I filled this seed feeder up just before seven this morning and by mid day it was empty.

House SparrowThen they ate the sunflower hearts and then they started on the peanuts.

House Sparrow numbers were in serious decline up until a couple of years ago and I hear that they have vanished from some cities but they are recovering now.

I predict a lot of fat little sparrows for this summer.

4Luckily for them I am in charge of the feeders and I don’t have to pay for the food. Well not the nuts and seed, I pay for the worms and sunflowers.

This is a farm, we have a farm shop and it sells bird food. There are bins of nuts and seed and the farmer told me to help myself. You don’t have to tell me things like that twice. They are his feeders that I am filling up and he likes having the birds around.

House Sparrow

House SparrowNone of this makes life any easier for my little Blue Tits but it is nice to know that at least one bird is doing okay.

House SparrowSo the Tits are all in trouble. I am not sure about the Goldfinches. There is an abundance of Dandelion in the fields just now and that is a natural food for them and they can feed their chicks regurgitated seed. The Robin is just a pest, they come knocking on my door if I don’t put out food quick enough and I had one in my kitchen last week wanting to know where I kept the meal worms. The Swallows and Martins must be having it hard. They are constantly on the wing and seem to have bags of energy but there can’t be many insects flying in the rain.

I just hope that May starts being May soon.

Horrible May!

Yes. Horrible May and the very serious consequences of horrible Mays. This is also going to be a post about what you can do about it (Positivity).

1What’s going on? This is the one month of the year that I really look forward to. Also this is the month that nature has decided is the best time to be born into the wild.


2So Blue Tits. (Yes and blue toes, it’s freezing, raining and there is a gale blowing)

Blue Tits

Blue Tits

Blue TitsIf you feed the birds regularly then you may have noticed a change in their behaviour in the last couple of weeks. My landlord mentioned it to me, he was talking about the Goldfinches, he is very fond of them, he said, “They don’t seem to come around much now.” In fact they are still here and food is disappearing from the feeders faster than ever but the bird’s visits are much shorter.

They are feeding their newly hatched chicks. They can’t feed them peanuts or sunflower hearts. They need high protein insect food and much of the adult bird’s day is going to be spent feeding it’s young. Putting food out in the garden means that the parents can feed themselves quickly and gives them more time to spend on more important things.

Blue Tits

Blue TitsSadly bad weather in May can have a devastating impact on our song birds. Caterpillars get washed off the trees. There just isn’t enough food around at the very time when it is most needed.

Blue Tits have a large brood, it can be as many as fifteen but eight to ten is more common. Each chick requires about a hundred caterpillars a day. Ten chicks equals a thousand caterpillars a day. They don’t need rain.

Seriously I have seen this weather pattern before and there has been a massive decline in song bird numbers come the summer.

The only thing that we can do to help them is to put out food for the adult birds. Please don’t think that winter is over and they don’t need it any more, they need you now more than ever.

Numbers go up and numbers go down, nature is cruel and whatever happens they will recover but ..


Poxy weather.

Blue Tits

Blue Tits

Blue Tits

Feed the birds. They will love you for it.

Blue Tits

Blue Tits

Blue Tits

EEEK! Sparrowhawk

P1170134What do you like to eat?

I live on a farm. I rent a flat there which is really just a part of the farmer’s house, so we live on top of each other and we get along okay. Apart from paying the rent, I help him out with his computer and I walk his dog and in turn he shows me around and introduces me to people. We both have a fondness for birds and he has a bird feeder just below my kitchen window, which I help him with.


He had a peanut feeder and a seed feeder and he had a little empty tray at the bottom and almost as soon as I moved here I noticed the Robins, so I started to put meal worms out for them.


The Robins were a great success but adding sunflower hearts into the mix brought us Goldfinches.


Pretty soon the garden was as charming as could be.


All of this activity inevitably caught the eye of a predator.


We have no shortage of predators around here. Buzzards circle above us and Peregrines are often seen here too. This is a young Sparrowhawk. One of last years chicks it has yet to develop it’s adult plumage. We can’t tell if it is male or female yet but I am advised from the size of the bird that it is probably male.

It is lovely to see such a beautiful bird up close but it’s presence in the garden did raise a bit of a problem. Fortunately it’s hunting technique wasn’t very successful.


The song birds recognised the hawk and understood it’s intention. I knew when the hawk was around even if I couldn’t see it because the garden was empty of any other birds.

Excuse the quality of this next picture, I took it because I had just seen the Sparrowhawk fly into that bush beside the feeder. He is waiting in ambush and I am up above watching the drama unfold.


The hawk waited there for about twenty minutes and no birds came down so he emerged from his hideout and flew up into a tree. Shortly after I saw him fly off. Another forty minutes passed before a Robin lit down and I knew then that the drama was over.

I am writing this in retrospect, all of this happened a couple of weeks ago now. The hawk stayed with us for two days and he didn’t make a kill. A bird can only spend so much time on a hunt and this one moved on to easier hunting grounds.

So why is our garden Sparrowhawk proof? I think it is because it is so open. the garden is backed by pasture with a fairly open orchard on one side.


The Sparrowhawk is a woodland bird and an exceptionally good ambush predator. It likes confined, tight spaces with plenty of cover and few escape routes. Our garden just didn’t work for him because everyone knew the moment he arrived on the scene, they took cover and they stayed hidden until they were sure he had gone.


Typically town gardens do a very good job of mimicking his woodland habitat. They are generally quite small with plenty of cover and bird feeders to attract the food items and Sparrowhawks get a lot of their prey there, we are just lucky that conditions were not right for him here.


Since his visit I have been hunting the local woodlands and hedgerows for signs of sparrowhawk kills. They are messy eaters, they have to pluck their prey before they can get to the flesh. When an animal with teeth kills, a Fox for instance, it rips it’s prey apart breaking the feathers in the process. So you can recognise a hawks kill by looking at the ends of the feathers that are left.


Smooth tips like this indicate that the feathers were carefully plucked and that would be by a Sparrowhawk. I am not finding many kills around here.



A lovely bird but I am glad that it has gone.

Everything has gone back to normal.